Do you remember the moment in time, approximately the late-1980s/early-1990s when ‘zines were popular. Before the internet and World Wide Web took off there was a convergence of relatively accessible desktop publishing, cheap printing, and the beginnings of electronic community that produced a sub-culture of ‘zines. The idea was to dedicate a publication to something esoteric or niche that could not be treated well in a mainstream print publication.
With the ability to put heavy graphical content on the web, ‘zines declined. There has been a resurgence of ‘zines as with all things artisanal and craft lately.
David Chang’s project Lucky Peach is like a ‘zine in tone and character, but it is so much more. It is also hard to describe without sounding too effusive. At its core, Lucky Peach is about food, the people who make food for a living, and the larger culture surrounding food be it television, art, literature, whatever.
How many places can I get the unvarnished ranting of Anthony Bourdain, Mario Batali, David Chang, and a host of others? This is not the Food Network or Bravo TV or whatever some lame ass has cooked up for a sport with women of the View. Or is it the Chew? This is a place where the guys behind Joe Beef in Montreal can wax poetic on the futility of culinary school programs, working your ass off without whining, level 10 asshole restaurants, and clean toilets. If you do not think clean toilets mean something than there is nothing I can do for you.
It’s also a place that can laugh at itself for a moment. If you are willing to put in a cartoon that shows Bourdain, Chang, and April Bloomfield in a motorcycle gang running on pickle juice or Ferran Adria as a waterslide entrepreneur there is humor in your bones. Without this ability to laugh we become another level 10 asshole type person to quote the Joe Beef guys and no one wants to spend any length of time with those people save for other level 10 asshole types.
Lucky Peach is for someone who can appreciate a hot dog and Coke at four AM following a night of bad decisions without delving into the meaning of street cart food. Dude, it’s four AM, I’m drunk, and I crave meat in a tube. Do not sully this moment of near religious awakening with a half ass academic treatise on the economic modalities of food vendors. It’s for the type of people who have wandered through the creepily narrow confines of the Alkmaar red light district in search of a late night falafel or doner fix.
I am not going to lavish undue praise on a quarterly publication about food because it is not about saving the world or saving the children or eradicating disease. It’s about food. Sure, we ascribe importance to the personalities associated with professional kitchens as a result of television. However, the impact of these personalities is felt by a limited set of America and, by definition, a very limited set of the world’s population. No one in Bangladesh or Myanmar cares about making a pineapple upside down cake for Mother’s Day in the microwave. Sorry, they’re worried about not getting arrested by the police state or getting enough to eat.
This does not detract from what I like about Lucky Peach. Each tome is a double barreled blast of twelve gauge food porn. I started with issue three, ordered issue two with my subscription, and am trying to find a copy of issue one for a decent price. That reminds me of searching out rare issues of ‘zines when I was a freshman at the University of Minnesota and I would scour shady bookstores looking for hand stapled sheaves of paper. Was it rational? Hell no, but life is not built on rational pursuits. We are irrational meat sacks.
Lucky Peach is like other things I get in the mail. Sure, I could read articles online but I want to touch and feel the paper. I want to sit down with a cup of coffee on the couch and read from dead trees while I watch my son try to eat every toy he owns with a toothless grin of sheer joy. Like seed catalogs in spring and whenever Patagonia sends me a catalog, it’s a moment to sit down and shave away the distractions of the oh so connected planet. Put down the iPhone with Facebook alerts and spend a moment in the analog world.
Hell, Whole Foods liked the idea so much that they aped the style and some of the tone to create the website Dark Rye. It smacks of corporate BS. Then again the CEO of Whole Foods did get busted for posting about the company under a pseudonym. The guy even had the cojones to comment about his own haircut. Even Narcissus blushed.